How loud is a witch's Cackle?


Rules Questions


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Many forum-goers maintain that the rules do not state that it must be loud or, for that matter, even audible. I do not disagree that the rules do not provide specific clarification, however, let's look at what we do know:

PRD wrote:
Cackle (Su): A witch can cackle madly as a move action. Any creature that is within 30 feet that is under the effects of an agony hex, charm hex, evil eye hex, fortune hex, or misfortune hex caused by the witch has the duration of that hex extended by 1 round.

Dictionary.com provides the following definitions:

Cackle:1.to utter a shrill, broken sound or cry, as of a hen.
2.to laugh in a shrill, broken manner.
3.to chatter noisily; prattle.

Madly:1.insanely or wildly: The old witch cackled madly.
2.with desperate haste or intensity; furiously: They worked madly to repair the bridge.
3.foolishly: They lived madly, wasting all their money.
4.extremely: They're madly in love.

Now, the only really good way to indicate quantitatively in PFRPG just how loud something is would be to give it a base Perception DC.

According to Perception in the PRD:
Hear the sound of battle: -10DC
Hear the details of a conversation: 0DC

So, since laughing in a shrill, broken manner insanely or wildly should be at least as loud as a typical conversation, and certainly no louder than a battle, it stands to reason that the Perception DC to hear a witch using the Cackle hex (before adjustments like distance or obstacles) would fall somewhere between -10 and 0.

If any of this sounds wrong, please let me know.


Sounds right, but then there are the modifiers for distance to consider, too.

And, of course, there might be other qualifiers (such as, say, the sound of nearby battle or an otherwise extremely quiet environment).


Absolutely, Tacticslion. I'm only trying to find the base DC so that the "silent cackling" epidemic can be either eliminated or officially approved.

Grand Lodge

I would make it from -5 to -10 DC depending on the witch. Nevertheless, it should never be something done stealthily.

Additionally from Dictionary.com:

shrill (shril) Show IPA adjective, shrill·er, shrill·est, verb, noun, adverb.
adjective
1. high-pitched and piercing in sound quality: a shrill cry.
2. producing such a sound.
3. full of or characterized by such a sound: shrill music.
4. betraying some strong emotion or attitude in an exaggerated amount, as antagonism or defensiveness.
5. marked by great intensity; keen: the shrill, incandescent light of the exploding bomb.


Well, RAW it probably can't be entirely.

But it can be reasonably house ruled as you're doing (or rather reasonably interpreted by RAW as one of multiple viable interpretations).

Mostly it's due to the fact that multiple people have different personal definitions of Cackle.

I've even seen "quietly cackling to himself" in a professionally published work, once, so, you know, you're not going to be able to get people to agree.

Personally, however, I think what you say here makes sense.


Using definitions of words from dictionaries is entertaining, but has no RAW impact.

Cackle is an ability. It does what it says it does and acts how it says it acts. Until Paizo says that cackle requires literal mad laughter, then it's undefined, and as with anything that is undefined, it can be interpreted how players and GMs like.

I personally find the concept that a witch must cackle like a hen in a shrill high-pitched cry simply too constraining from a role playing perspective. No other class is constrained to act like an idiot to achieve their class abilities. Why should the witch be the only one?

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Adamantine Dragon wrote:
No other class is constrained to act like an idiot to achieve their class abilities.

*cough*barbarianrage*cough*


Jiggy wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
No other class is constrained to act like an idiot to achieve their class abilities.
*cough*barbarianrage*cough*

You can flavor barbarian rage however you like. You don't HAVE to go "Raaarrrgghhh! Hulk SMASH!!!"

Sure some barbarian players do, but you don't have to.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Well, you have to do something that makes sense with the inability to concentrate. I haven't come up with anything outside of "Hulk smash" that fits the mechanical limitations yet, but I'm open to ideas. ;)

But anyway, sorry to derail the thread. I have a pet peeve about built-in flavor. I've thought of making a "witch" with a Native American vibe whose "cackle" is more like chanting/singing.


Jiggy wrote:

Well, you have to do something that makes sense with the inability to concentrate. I haven't come up with anything outside of "Hulk smash" that fits the mechanical limitations yet, but I'm open to ideas. ;)

But anyway, sorry to derail the thread. I have a pet peeve about built-in flavor. I've thought of making a "witch" with a Native American vibe whose "cackle" is more like chanting/singing.

Yep, that's the sort of thing I'm talking about too Jiggy. I like flavor, being told excactly how my character has to act is a bit... constraining for a "role playing game".


43 Decibel.
The answer is always 43.

(no seriously, there is nothing in the rules, and it should be possible to do it pretty quietly, although I wouldn't allow to move silently while cackling. Perhaps it's like whispering at least)

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Yeah, the answer is "undefined".

Here are some thoughts though (and nothing more). It's pretty obviously based on the classic trope (stereotype?) of the madly cackling witch, and we all know what that sounds like: it's an unrestrained, easily-heard, high-pitched laugh of "I'm so diabolical it tickles".

If we assume that was in mind when it was created, then presumably its audible qualities are supposed to be approximately that. I'm all for reflavoring things, but personally I'm not into reflavoring for mechanical advantage. So I'd let it be chanting or singing or whatever else, as long as it's still audible (and approximately similar volume) and still requires vocal capability, etc.

But again, that's just me; it's undefined.


Richard Leonhart wrote:

43 Decibel.

The answer is always 43.

(no seriously, there is nothing in the rules, and it should be possible to do it pretty quietly, although I wouldn't allow to move silently while cackling. Perhaps it's like whispering at least)

Hmm... well, I suppose it is pretty reasonable to say that you can't cackle stealthily... although there still is no RAW to say otherwise.

So cackling "silently" might be pushing it a bit.

How about chanting?

I just don't like the image of the typical cackling witch. It doesn't fit the flavor of my witch, which is more of a voodoo witch than a standard black-robed, pointy hat, broom flying witch.

What makes sense for a voodoo witch to "cackle"?

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

i totally disagree, Richard.
"A witch can cackle madly as a move action." is part of the rules.
Cackle has a specific meaning and disregarding that is simply trying to scrounge an extra benefit.

Shadow Lodge

Seems like the key thing is "cackle madly" directly contradicts "cackle stealthily", "cackle quietly", "cackle silently", or other versions of not madly. Add your touch of madness however you like, whether you want it to be idiotic or sublime or spiritual, but keep it mad or it isn't cackling.

The example of published literature using the semantic turn of phrase "quietly cackled to himself" is just plain wrong. The author needs to reevaluate his word usage.

It seems like it could be easily determined by defining it as a sonic effect. If it was a sonic effect, I could throw some physics at it and you could determine how loud the person would need to be cackling in order to be heard by the target at the given distance. In any battle situation, it would have to be pretty loud.

However, it appears to only be listed as a "supernatural" ability, with no guidance other than that we all know that actual "cackling madly" is a process of making noise....


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Diego Rossi wrote:

i totally disagree, Richard.

"A witch can cackle madly as a move action." is part of the rules.
Cackle has a specific meaning and disregarding that is simply trying to scrounge an extra benefit.

This. Calling that "flavor" should be considered the house-rule. Now, is Jiggy's witch's chanting instead of laughing like an idiot abusing rules by reskinning? I don't think so. Is AD's witch abusing the rules by asserting that RAW doesn't say "it's required to be loud?" Not if his GM is cool with it.

Players should not assume that their GMs will even let them reflavor abilities, but, with some discussion, neither should GMs disallow reasonable requests. If a GM wants to be strict, let's say for PFS, he certainly can rule that cackling madly is loud.


enaudible wrote:
The example of published literature using the semantic turn of phrase "quietly cackled to himself" is just plain wrong. The author needs to reevaluate his word usage.

I would tend to agree, but it does make for a great moment (I remember the moment, even though I don't the story!) when the crazy guy goes over in a corner and convulses for a little bit quietly (what they were getting across with "quietly cackled to himself"). :)

My point was simply that people will tend to interpret things differently because, after all, we're people. And demanding RAW and RAW-only (as I'm coming to discover more and more over time) is... a tricky thing.

What happens when the rule says "only on a green" and the player is color blind? (Okay, bad example, as obviously, the GM just needs to take more care to explain things... but that's besides the point!)

Words mean different things to different people.

Still, I'd tend to interpret in favor of the loud noise.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Reflavor? Not a problem (as long as you reflavor the whole class in a consistent way, no Indian chanting for cackle for a character flavored like a European witch).

Doing it silently? Yes, I have a problem as the ability isn't meant to be silent.

Tacticslion wrote:


What happens when the rule says "only on a green" and the player is color blind? (Okay, bad example, as obviously, the GM just needs to take more care to explain things... but that's besides the point!)

He play a blue engineering card instead of a violet tactical one and all the players say "He is a cylon!" (from the boardgame Battlestar Galactica [it happened]).


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Jiggy wrote:

Well, you have to do something that makes sense with the inability to concentrate. I haven't come up with anything outside of "Hulk smash" that fits the mechanical limitations yet, but I'm open to ideas. ;)

But anyway, sorry to derail the thread. I have a pet peeve about built-in flavor. I've thought of making a "witch" with a Native American vibe whose "cackle" is more like chanting/singing.

I personally have my witch cackle like Nelson when he hits a target with Misfortune.

On a side note I think it does have to be vocal, but as long as you RP it to fit your character most DM's would be fine with that.


Jiggy wrote:
Well, you have to do something that makes sense with the inability to concentrate. I haven't come up with anything outside of "Hulk smash" that fits the mechanical limitations yet, but I'm open to ideas. ;)

I have a player who flavours his barbarian rage as channeling the powers of his tribes ancestors. He sometimes talks in weird voices and has a hard time focusing on the here and now, because fragments of their memorys and personalities are messing with his head. Works pretty well and makes for a very different concept from RAAAH SMASH!


Cackle can be at any volume you want within the witch's vocal range. It does not require anyone to hear it for it to work, merely the act of doing it. And it does not specify any sort of loudness at all nor a listen DC to hear cackling.

If it did face these constraints, it would be terribly easy to foil just by blocking your ears (there's a reason most effects that require the foe to hear it are resolved instantaneously or quickly, rather than an ongoing sound effect like cackle). And it would basically be impossible to use cackle to extend the extremely short duration of the Charm hex in any sort of social situation.

I personally like to envision cackling as being soft, condescending, and done under your breath. But you can role play it however you want.

As for Barbarian rage, I've always preferred to depict it more like a tranquil fury (standard TVTropes warning: go to the link and you will likely end up wasting several hours of your day). You don't have any stimulus to attack allies or really go out of control at all, and you suddenly become *more* skilled at combat maneuvers and related techniques, so a focused, channeled frighteningly dispassionate aggression always made more sense to me.

Sovereign Court Contributor

Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Richard Leonhart wrote:

43 Decibel.

The answer is always 43.

(no seriously, there is nothing in the rules, and it should be possible to do it pretty quietly, although I wouldn't allow to move silently while cackling. Perhaps it's like whispering at least)

Hmm... well, I suppose it is pretty reasonable to say that you can't cackle stealthily... although there still is no RAW to say otherwise.

So cackling "silently" might be pushing it a bit.

How about chanting?

I just don't like the image of the typical cackling witch. It doesn't fit the flavor of my witch, which is more of a voodoo witch than a standard black-robed, pointy hat, broom flying witch.

What makes sense for a voodoo witch to "cackle"?

Well, in our world, a houngan or a mambo (voudoun priest/ess) is possessed, at least part of the time. They would do the weird stuff that their lwa makes them do - speak in a strange voice, laugh (for Baron Cimetiere), crack dirty jokes, drink alcohol, dance, sing, climb trees, crawl on the ground, etc. All these would either be more or equally distracting to maintain as a constant thing as cackling.


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StreamOfTheSky wrote:

Cackle can be at any volume you want within the witch's vocal range. It does not require anyone to hear it for it to work, merely the act of doing it. And it does not specify any sort of loudness at all nor a listen DC to hear cackling.

If it did face these constraints, it would be terribly easy to foil just by blocking your ears (there's a reason most effects that require the foe to hear it are resolved instantaneously or quickly, rather than an ongoing sound effect like cackle). And it would basically be impossible to use cackle to extend the extremely short duration of the Charm hex in any sort of social situation.

I personally like to envision cackling as being soft, condescending, and done under your breath. But you can role play it however you want.

You don't need to hear a wizard cast magic missile to be affected by it, either, but without metamagic, that wizard does have to make noise to affect you with it.


I didn't say cackle could make no noise at all. It does. If you are in an area of silence, you can't cackle; if your foe is in such an area and you are not, it works as normal, though.

But it does not need to make much noise. Verbal spell components on the other hand, were specifically called out as being about as loud as the sounds of battle somewhere, iirc.


StreamOfTheSky wrote:
Cackle can be at any volume you want within the witch's vocal range. It does not require anyone to hear it for it to work, merely the act of doing it. And it does not specify any sort of loudness at all nor a listen DC to hear cackling.

A cackle is loud by definition, hence the necessity of using 'quietly' when talking about the crazy guy in a corner. No really, it's what the dictionary says. Unless you specifically say it is quiet, it is assumed to be loud.

Madly is also loud, or obvious, by definition. One does not subtly stare madly or unobtrusively drive madly.

A cackle is loud and obvious. Madly is obvious. A madly cackle would therefore be loud, obvious, and disturbing. Reskinning to another loud obvious sound that seems thematically appropriate would be fine be me. Anything subtle would not.


And "cackling madly," which the rules say you do, can be quieter than speaking some weird words while wiggling fingers? I understand that the rules don't actually say that it has to be loud. They do say "cackling madly," though, which actually means , well, see above. So the rules do, indeed include high volume. For those of you who are only using it in combat, anyway, you probably aren't abusing the rules in any "meaningful" way, so if your GM doesn't say "no," who cares?


StreamOfTheSky wrote:
As for Barbarian rage, I've always preferred to depict it more like a tranquil fury (standard TVTropes warning: go to the link and you will likely end up wasting several hours of your day). You don't have any stimulus to attack allies or really go out of control at all, and you suddenly become *more* skilled at combat maneuvers and related techniques, so a focused, channeled frighteningly dispassionate aggression always made more sense to me.

I personally like that flavor for my barbarians more often too. I feel like running around screaming does not make for a very badass character, it just makes them look entirely idiotic. And my barbs don't generally dump int or wis that much :P

As for cackling quietly and madly at the same time, I don't see why that's so difficult. If someone's just laughing to themself, they don't need to be particularly loud, but it can still sound insane for the few people close enough to hear it. It'd basically be like laughing under your breath sorta.

That said, changing flavor should never really change game mechanics, imo. Hell, if a witch doesn't want to even crack a smile when they use their cackle ability that's fine, but if the GM thinks the original would alert people with sound, then so should this. If nothing else, you could say, despite a lack of sound, the magic of the ability alerts people (again, depending on whether the GM thinks the original would do so as well).

I dunno, my thoughts on it anyway. Flavor is flavor. I see no reason not to tailor it if you want to, provided you're not altering the way the ability works.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I use the same guidelines that I do for verbal spell components, a firm steady voice. Outside of that flavor as you will.

Either way you pretty much can't hide that you've just said something that's arcaney and out of the ordinary realm of conversation.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I agree with LazarX and others, it's cackling, it's making noise, it's doing it madly. At the very least, it should be as loud as someone pointing their finger and saying 'BOOMSTICK!' to fire off a fireball.

Silver Crusade

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mdt wrote:
I agree with LazarX and others, it's cackling, it's making noise, it's doing it madly. At the very least, it should be as loud as someone pointing their finger and saying 'BOOMSTICK!' to fire off a fireball.

"Shop smart...shop S-Mart."

;)


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Silver Crusade

Lol, apologies, when i saw MDT's post include BOOMSTICK, i instantly thought of Army of Darkness :)


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

As you should! Classics should always be recognized on quoting! :)

Liberty's Edge

Does fireball include a flash of light? RAW doesn't say so.

Does it include heat? I can't find any notes in RAW expressly connecting heat to fire. It says it's searing, but searing isn't defined in RAW.

As someone brought up in the thread that prompted this one: how much water can you drink? Can your character drink the oceans dry? RAW doesn't say they can't. Can anyone point me to the part in RAW where it says you can't drink saltwater?

I can't believe this is the level of discourse we've come to.


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The silent cackle is bunk.

It could be "Muaahhahahaha!"

Or "EEEEeheheheheheheeeeee"

I can't recall which movie but I saw something along the lines of loud mumblin/ babbling that would fit.

And then in Conan (with Arnold) the chineese "wizard" has a strained mumble that I say would fit well for "cackle" as he uses it to seeming keep effects going (seems to be part of his concentration)

Either way it could be flavored as unintelligible noise.

But the words 'cackle' and 'madly' do mean 'noise'.... I don't see how you can argue "by raw it doesn't say you have to make noise', it does it says cackle madly, that's noise, within 30 feet of the origin, that's at least some kind of loud mumble.

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